Thursday, September 26, 2019

Option in Translation: Creating Theology Through Punctuation

The chapter break between Matthew 24 and 25 is unfortunate, as Jesus has not stopped speaking nor has he changed the subject. Chapter 25, is a chronological continuation of Chapter 24. 

It is important to understand that chapter and verse numbers are not in the original Greek texts. They are translator supplements that were added much later and though helpful in locating passages can also cause can punctuation.

Chapter and verse divisions are here to stay, though the reader must be made aware that they are often misplaced. But punctuation should be ditched.  One example of how Christians can benefit from reading Bibles with no punctuation [as God's people did for centuries] is the argument concerning what Jesus really said to the thief who hung on the cross next to him.

This argument is based entirely on the placement of a comma

Did Jesus say, “Truly, I say to you this day, you shall be with with me in Paradise.” Or did he say, “Truly, I say to you, this day you shall be with me in Paradise?” One religious organization claims all of Christianity is wrong except for them because of the placement of the comma in this verse. 

The placements of the comma in this verse completely change what Jesus said to the thief and is just one example of how punctuation creates theology without readers being aware that they are [almost subliminally] being influenced by a translator supplement, a translator’s opinion. For that reason, punctuation is almost entirely eliminated from The Hungry Hearts Bible Commentary

Theology can be a very good thing. And every believer should love the study of God. But as the Bible was originally written without punctuation, this writer believes it is better to read it without supplemental [theological] punctuation influencing the reader. 

Truly I say to you this day you shall be with me in Paradise

Is it not better [and more honest] to leave theological commentary for the notes, so readers are aware they are getting opinions of theologians rather than making punctuation part of Holy Writ? 

This short post is simply a heads-up for readers to pay attention to chapter and verse separations, to be sure they really should be there or if certain verses or chapters should be read as a single statement. And don't forget to question the punctuation as well.  Doing these simple things can revolutionize biblical understanding.

End biblical illiteracy. Read your Bibles every day, always picking up today where you left off yesterday.

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